Conference play in the MAAC began tonight with Marist visiting Fairfield. There are three more games tomorrow night. So I thought it would be worthwhile to review what the MAAC has done so far this young season. I’ll go in reverse order of preseason conference ranking which, along with the three preseason All-Conference teams, was voted on by the coaches.
The Red Foxes are 0-4. Their average margin of defeat is 17.5 points. They’re probably not going to be all that competitive this year.
The Gaels (4-2) have been a pleasant surprise, beating Boston University in their opener and playing three competitive games in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, losing by five to Florida State, falling in overtime to Baylor, and beating Creighton. Iona has reached the 80-point mark twice this season, and their deep bench allows them to employ the up-tempo, full-court press attack that coach Kevin Willard prefers. They may be a year away from being a serious competitor in the MAAC, but I think the Gaels have proven they are a dangerous team right now.
The Jaspers are 4-2 but have no quality wins. We’ll know a lot more about Manhattan the next time they return home, which isn’t until Jan. 4 — Friday starts a tough stretch of seven straight road games (which includes four conference games and a trip to Vanderbilt.)
Much like Manhattan, Canisius has a winning record (3-2) but hasn’t beaten anyone of note. They open conference play tomorrow at home against Loyola. The Golden Griffins have three players averaging at least 14 points per game.
It’s become a theme: Loyola is 4-2 but doesn’t have any impressive wins. Preseason second-teamer Jamal Barney is averaging 12.3 points and 4.3 rebounds a game for the Greyounds.
Saint Peter’s (t5)
St. Pete’s is the team that played the 6 a.m. game as part of ESPN’s 24 hours of college hoops. They won that game, shaking off a season-opening loss at the buzzer to Seton Hall. Since, they’ve had a couple of bad losses and now sit at 2-3. Second-teamer Wesley Jenkins leads the Peacocks in scoring with 14.4 per game.
Unfortunately for the Stags, they’re probably not going to be as good as their preseason ranking suggests. Much like last year, injuries have taken a toll on Fairfield. Second-team preseason selection Greg Nero, who missed a lot of time last year due to back spasms, has not played yet this season and might miss the entire season after having offseason sinus surgery. Without Nero, the Stags are far less dangerous. They’re 4-2 but lost their only two real tests (against Maryland and Hofstra).
The Broncs (5-3) got a huge win to start the season, winning at then-No. 19 Mississippi State. They have cooled off a bit since, suffering 30+ point losses at Virginia and Kentucky and then losing to Sam Houston State. They are coming off a win against St. Joe’s, though. Rider has three players on the three preseason teams, including preseason Player of the Year Ryan Thompson, and is considered to be one of the two teams with a chance to dethrone Siena.
The Purple Eagles (4-3) lost by four at Auburn to open the season and have been somewhat quiet since. But they certainly have the talent to win the MAAC, and with four straight conference home games to start MAAC play, it’s fair to assume they’ll likely be at the top of the conference standings when they visit Siena Jan. 9.
The Saints have been a disappointment so far, losing to Temple, St. John’s, and Georgia Tech, essentially eliminating themselves from getting an at-large bid should they fail to repeat as MAAC Tournament champs. First-team selection Edwin Ubiles has been hampered by a knee injury, but Siena has plenty of talent to pick up the slack.